By Roger Wheelock, 8/23/22
The Purpose of the Church in Today’s America
If one was to ask a typical Christian what the purpose of the church is, the most likely first response would be ‘To preach the Gospel.’ And who could argue with that? Most leaders in the church heartily make this their first claim. And, of course, it is absolutely true. Paul proclaimed, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!”[i] (emphasis added) Paul also repeats Isaiah’s statement[ii] in Romans 10:15, “As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” We have been given both the blessing and responsibility to declare the Good News of the Gospel message to the whole world!
But how are those terms – “Good News”, or “the Gospel” – defined? Are they limited only to the simple explanation of what it takes to receive salvation and inherit eternal life? To believe that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; that we are all in need of a Savior, and Christ is that Savior who gave His sinless life and priceless blood to redeem us and cleanse us of all our sins if we will but repent and put our trust in Him? That surely is good news, but is it the entire Gospel? No, it is only the first portion.
Ephesians 2:8-10 begins with, “It is by grace we have been saved through faith, not of works…” This portion opens the door to salvation and leads to new life – becoming “born-again.” The second part of the Gospel message gives us our marching orders in the battleground we have now been born into. We have been saved “for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Every week, church congregations meet together, mainly attended by those who believe themselves saved. Their cry is to be guided in the knowledge and understanding of God so that they can navigate this life triumphantly in preparation for eternity.
In other words, “What are the good works that God has prepared for me to do now that I have been saved, and how can I battle the evil surrounding me unless I can discern God’s truth from man’s lies? Help!” If this is why the people come to church, then the purpose of the church stretches far beyond preaching the message of salvation by grace through faith.
To be clear, this is not to say that there are not numerous churches that have a more expansive view of the purpose of the church. For example, many focus on Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” – which certainly does not exclude proclaiming the message of salvation to unbelievers. However, judging by the overall anemic condition of Christianity in America it is clear that most evangelical churches consider that their main objective is to lead the lost to salvation through “the preaching of the Gospel” rather than spending the majority of time in discipling and educating their flock to think and live like Christ. How else can the rampant biblical illiteracy among professing Christians be explained? A sample of recent polling is given below to clarify this problem.[iii]
The Scarcity of a Biblical Worldview Among Self-Described Christians
- Less than 9% of all professing “Born-again” Christians have a biblical worldview – which simply means they don’t look at all issues of life through the lens of Scripture.
- Only 2% of the Christian parents of preteens (children in the key worldview development window) have a biblical worldview
- 88% possess a hybrid worldview. Almost nine out of 10 U.S. adults have an impure, unrecognizable worldview that is nothing more than a customized, personal blend of disparate ideas adopted from multiple philosophies of life.
How Does This Affect Belief and Behavior?
- Only 33% believe the Bible is the primary source for moral truth
- 76% REJECT the principle that Absolute Truth exists (believing instead that truth is relative to each individual)
- Only 55% believe the Bible is the actual Word of God
- Only 14% believe that accumulated wealth is entrusted to us by God to manage for His purposes
The Power of Discipleship
No devout Christian should be content with the state of today’s churches when we consider how ineffective and disrespected the church now is in the culture. It is inarguable that the influence of Christianity as a whole has fallen drastically in the last 60 years.
If the patient is sick, it is foolish to pretend he is not; or worse, to treat the illness with something other than that which addresses the infection. Rather, a cure for the specific illness must be diligently sought after. In our case, the diagnosis is clear: the patient is suffering from lack of knowledge.[iv]
The question is, how can this be cured? The answer? Return to God’s initial commandment spelled out in Deuteronomy 6:1- 9…
“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Emphasis added)
History speaks. Are we listening?
Before Roman Catholicism took control of Christianity in the middle of the 1st millennia A.D. – much like a modern corporation gobbling up its competition ̶ the early Church was, generally speaking, doing what She is called to do, i.e., fulfilling the Great Commission through the appropriation of three fundamental commands contained in Mathew 28:19-20:
- “Go (or having gone to all nations). Christ’s disciples are or be active in the entire world around us as opposed to keeping our faith to ourselves. In other words, leave your comfort zone, die to yourself, and carry your cross as a living sacrifice for the sake of others, bringing the light of truth to the world.
- “Discipling (verb: teaching, training up) all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Of course, the first application of the term baptize refers to baptism by water. However, a case can be made that “baptizing them” may also refer to immersing disciples in the doctrines of the Christian faith (the Living Water), not merely being immersed in liquid water as a one-time public act committing one’s allegiance to Christ. In other words, the commission to “baptize them” may also allude to the transformation and renewing of the mind that is required of all disciples[vii] accentuated in the command of the following verse…
- “Teaching them to obey all that I have commanded.” Simply put, we are to challenge the world with the knowledge and fear of the God of Law and Grace, righteousness and justice. Our priority, then, is to teach/disciple the individuals, families, churches, and nations, generation-by-generation, to live in submission to the immutable laws of God set in place for our blessing. This is how we love our neighbor as ourselves.[viii]
With these clear instructions defining our purpose, Christianity spread like a mighty wind blowing across the western world. Dedicated Christians clinging to the truth of God’s Word in the midst of trials and persecution, committed to discipling all ages and determined to know, understand, and live the Faith in every area of life, proceeded to persuade and display to the world the transformational power of the works and doctrines of Christ.
However, instead of continuing with the momentum of God’s approving wind upon our back, we turned our face against His purposes, creating our own methods, effectively spitting in the wind, and consequently we are now “reaping the whirlwind.” [ix] Our families are floundering among a tornado of deceptive ideas that oppose the Word of God, leaving them dazed and confused, unable to stand.
Why Equipping is Vital for the Church
The first duty of the Church is to equip the saints.[x] ‘Easy believism’ (altar calls leading non-believers in a prayer they are to simply repeat) is fundamentally opposed to the plain teaching of Scripture. Indeed, as we read only a moment ago, faith is a gracious gift of God. If saving faith were easy, men would have reason to boast! “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” [xi]
Thus we see that understanding must always accompany believing. Under-standing means that we stand upon what is under us, i.e., what we believe to be true. If we are standing on a solid foundation of absolute Truth, it will keep us stable during trials and troubles. If we do not know why we believe what we believe, we stand only on shifting sand; or we are like ships without rudders, blown about by every wind of doctrine. The sparks from the tongues of those without understanding based on Truth will light fires that burn down entire nations; and judging by the extent of the fires of destruction raging all around us today, the Church in America doesn’t have much time to extinguish the flames.
We must immediately set our first priorities upon washing the Church with the water of the Word of God – the Word of Truth – teaching them to obey all Christ has commanded. Then, and only then, will our mighty Commander join us in the battles.[xii]
Our key to victory is in discipling and educating the Church based on God’s immutable Truth and applied to all of life. We must challenge our churches to turn around and get back into this war!
- Pastors: For assistance in researching how your church can become more effective in discipling and educating your congregation to withstand the onslaught against our faith, go to PublicSchoolExit.com. We can help!
- All Christians and Church Leaders: Start with a biblical worldview curriculum that will teach all participants to think like Christ in all areas of life. Consider the Thinking Like a Christian Video Series or the You Are What You Think textbook series from Greater Than I Ministries (GTImin.com)
[i] 1 Corinthians 9:16
[ii] Is. 52:7
[iii] Source: American Worldview Inventory 2022, conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University and administered to 1,000 Christian pastors (p. 18). Arizona Christian University Press. Kindle Edition.
[iv] Hosea 4:6
[v] Deut. 28:1-14, Psalm 1:1-3, Joshua 1:8, etc.
[vi] Deuteronomy 28:15-68, etc.
[vii] Romans 12:2
[viii] Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 19:19, 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27
[ix] Hosea 8:7
[x] Ephesians 4:12
[xi] Isaiah 1:18
[xii] Matthew 28:20b